Sony Xperia XA review (hands-on): A budget smartphone of rare beauty

The new Sony Xperia XA might sit below the Xperia X in the range, but if you didn’t know better, you probably wouldn’t notice with the two sat side-by-side. This is a remarkably good-looking phone.

Sony Xperia XA review (hands-on): A budget smartphone of rare beauty

In fact, to my eyes, the Xperia XA is the more attractive device: from the front, the phone’s slightly curved glass edges and impossibly narrow bezels really do look the part, and although the rear of the phone is clad in matte-white plastic, the overall impression is of a high-quality handset.

Along with those super-skinny bezels, the phone is light and slim, weighing a mere 137g and measuring 7.9mm from front to back. And although there’s no fingerprint reader here – just a simple, circular power button – Sony has, at least, put the volume rocker in sensible place just below it and not right in the corner as it is on the Xperia X.

Take a look at the specifications below, however, and you’ll see that the Sony Xperia XA is firmly in the budget to mid-range camp, and I suspect it may well cost less than £200. There’s no confirmed pricing yet – that’s just my educated guess – but if it comes in at that price, it could be a tempting alternative to phones such as the Moto G, Honor 5X and OnePlus X.


Sony Xperia XA review: Key specifications and release date

  • 5in, 720p IPS display

  • Octa-core MediaTek Helio P MT6755 64-bit processor

  • 2GB of RAM

  • 16GB storage

  • MicroSD slot

  • Android 6 Marshmallow

  • 2,300mAh battery, with “two days” battery life

  • 67 x 144 x 7.9mm, 137g

  • Release date: summer 2016

Sony Xperia XA review: Features and performance

The first big clue as to the Sony Xperia XA’s budget lineage is the screen. It’s 5in across the diagonal, but only 720p in resolution – the same as the Motorola Moto G 3. At first glance, though, the quality is decent enough – it isn’t noticeably low res, although those with keen vision may be able to see the jaggies if they look really closely.

The bigger giveaway, however, is the MediaTek Helio P MT6755 processor. MediaTek processors are typically only found in the cheapest smartphones, but it may not be the problem you might expect to be for the Sony Xperia XA. MediaTek processors are making a bit of a comeback this year, and this one looks promising from the specifications.

It’s an octa-core design that runs at speeds up to 2GHz, has eight ARM Cortex-A53 CPUs and a Mali-T860 MP2 GPU. From my time with it on the stand, the phone felt perfectly responsive and fluid. I wasn’t able to run any benchmarks, but rest assured when I get my hands on a review sample I’ll be updating this review with all my findings.

The only thing that concerns me about the MediaTek processor is that it’s a 28nm part, which might suggest lower efficiency and – potentially – worse battery life. Sony is still claiming its usual “two-day” battery life, however, so maybe the processor is more efficient than the specifications suggest.

Elsewhere, the Xperia XA is typical budget smartphone fare. There’s 2GB of RAM, a mere 16GB of storage (expandable via microSD card slots), although it’s good to see Android 6 Marshmallow on board.

Sony Xperia XA review: Volume rocker and power button

The camera is a more basic affair than the 23-megapixel beast on board the Sony Xperia X, too. In fact, to look at the specs, the XA’s 13-megapixel rear camera is uncannily similar to the front-facing camera on the Xperia X, with its hybrid autofocus and 1/3in sensor. Still, it’s a 13-megapixel camera with hybrid autofocus, and on a phone such as the Xperia XA, that’s a rare thing.

The front-facing camera on the Xperia XA isn’t quite as impressive, but it has an 8-megapixel sensor, which should be enough able to capture the bags below your eyes and the pimples on your chin in plenty of detail.

Sony Xperia XA review: Verdict and availability

The Sony Xperia XA won’t go on sale in the UK until the summer, but the specifications suggest that the price should be significantly less than £200. If that is indeed the case, then despite the 720p screen and MediaTek processor, the Xperia XA will be a budget phone to reckon with. Its 13-megapixel hybrid autofocus camera, lovely design and sensible feature set look to be a fine combination.

Sony Xperia XA review: MicroSD and SIM card slots

Read more: There’s a bevy of smartphone excitement over at MWC, and LG caused shockwaves with its latest handset. Click here to check out our hands-on review of the innovative new LG G5.

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